If there is a Catholic feast day that speaks to my childhood (and continued throughout adulthood) love of fantasy and enchantment — give me all the dragons and the princesses and the castles! — then it’s today’s: the Feast of the Archangels.
Don’t get me wrong. The Archangels — Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael — aren’t whimsical creatures. These angels are mentioned by name throughout Scripture, including Michael as a special guardian over Israel (Dan. 10:13) and Gabriel as a messenger to Mother Mary (Luke 1:19, 26), and are very much a part of our Catholic tradition.
Though Saint Raphael isn’t mentioned by name in the New Testament (like he is in the Book of Tobit), he’s linked with a story in the Gospel of John in which an unnamed angel descends upon the pool of water in Bethesda, moving it and healing the ill people who had rested beside it.
In other words, the Archangels aren’t fantastical; but their actions and roles throughout our religion’s history are somewhat otherworldly. Guardian, messenger of the Divine, and healer — these are special saints with special powers!
Partly because I associate the Archangels with the stories of my childhood, and partly because one of the most prominent pieces of our church literature that is tied to the Archangels is the(a prayer that asks for the protection of St. Michael in our battles against wickedness…and one that I pull out of my mental arsenal anytime I’m feeling spooked), the Archangels represent courage to me. I love that they are a part of our tradition, and I love that I can turn to them when I need some protection and bravery in my life.
Here are 5 occasions in everyday life that call for courage, during which I turn to the Archangels for intervention:
When I’m driving
One of the scariest things for me as a new mom was driving my tiny babe. All of a sudden, I felt alert to the traffic outside my car in a way that I never had before, and I constantly worried about being side-swiped or t-boned in an intersection. The fact is that motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of accidental death in the United States, and, well, that’s just scary. Though I’ve proceeded to drive my children countless times (sometimes I think I spend more time in my van than in my home!), I’m still very aware of and sensitive to the dangers that the road presents. That’s why I pray to the Archangels every time I slide into the driver’s seat, asking for both courage and protection.
When I’m about to have a difficult conversation
While my preference is to avoid conflict — I’m a peacekeeper, by nature — sometimes difficult conversations are inevitable, and indeed, important for building strong relationships. I get butterflies in my stomach almost every time I know that I need to bring up an issue, express a frustration, or seek clarity on words or actions that troubled me, whether with my husband, a business contact, or a friend. In these moments, I pray for clarity and compassion as well as courage.
When I’m trying something new
I’m not talking about trying a new TV show or recipe (though who knows? Maybe my children are praying for courage when they sit down to a dinner that they’ve never seen before. That would be fine by me!). Instead, I’m praying for courage when I try new social, emotional, and mental endeavors that, even as an adult, cause my heart to skip a beat. I’m talking about attending a PTA meeting for the first time, or adding a new line of products to House of Joppa, or posting something vulnerable — something that I haven’t previously disclosed — on social media. I need God — and the Archangels — to be with me in these moments!
When I’m facing interior battles
It goes without saying that I am a supremely privileged woman. I have a wonderful family, I live in a warm and safe home, and I have the resources to provide food, education and fun for my children. I am blessed beyond measure and I thank God daily for the abundant goodness in my life. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have days when I feel overwhelmed by anxious thoughts, sadness, or frustration. Part of being human is encountering loss and experiencing suffering. There are days when I just feel down, when I’d rather stay in bed than go about the tasks of my life as a mother and business owner. And there are days when I can’t seem to concentrate on the work and delight that’s in front of me because a stream of negative thoughts seems to be ruling my mind. These down days and negative days are the ones when I pray for courage to rise above the thought patterns that are prohibiting me from being the mother, wife and worker who God created me to be.
When I’m worried about my children
Is there anything in life that calls for more courage than being a mother? I’m sure that there is for many people, but not for me! I need to muster a tremendous amount of courage every day that I send my daughters and son out into the world…which is pretty much every day. I would give my life for my children and I want nothing more than for them to be safe, healthy and godly human beings, and the reality is that life poses many threats to these ends. But since life is mean to be lived — I can’t keep my children nestled in the cocoon of my arms forever, nor do I actually want that — I have to let me children venture out…on the school bus, to friends houses, to summer camp, and more. I pray for courage in each of these instances and so many more.
I may not be going into battle like the Israelites, but my life has many occasions when I feel like I could use more courage and protection. That’s why I’m glad to have the Archangels — Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael — on my side. There’s no better day to celebrate them than today!